Mountain Wheels: Big wheels for extroverts: Ram’s impressive Power Wagon
2016 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Crew Cab 4x4
MSRP: $50,715; As tested, $57,480
Powertrain: 410-HP V8 engine; six-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: Not required on a truck this big (13.5 in reality)
If you like big trucks, and you cannot lie — and you fill in the rest of that Sir Mix-A-Lot tune each time you see something with a lift kit and an exhaust pipe the size of a Super Big Gulp — then the outrageously brawny and unapologetically bling-heavy Ram 2500 Power Wagon might just be your kind of thing.
Your neighbors and relatives may be singing a different tune when you pull up in one of nine color combinations and really, really un-subtle graphics on the body and bed — like a glue-sniffing kid gone crazy with the decals in an old Monogram model kit.
I got one with a bright white clear coat paint job that really accentuated the red grille inserts, the deep-dish 17-inch mag wheels encircled in 33-inch mud tires and big rig-worthy cab lights. This thing makes an entrance, and when you find yourself literally looking down on Suburban drivers in traffic, you know that you’ve found off-the-lot big truck nirvana.
It’s the Power Wagon’s general ease of use and its surprisingly civil ride and competent handling — with one major exception — that helps to make it more than some sort of refugee from a monster truck show, graphics aside. The 2500’s standard crew cab and full bed, which came up to my chin, suggesting you might need a stepladder for some loading jobs, make it a rather substantial vehicle, but with some practice, parking and maneuvering becomes second nature.
Even with those very off-road-oriented tires, it’s also smooth and easy-going during around town jaunts, and corners with more authority than you’d expect from a truck its size. Do be very careful if you plan any Interstate travels in the Power Wagon, however, as concrete road sections transform the highly-placed vehicle’s cabin into a Bouncy Castle at anywhere north of 60 mph — possibly the most pronounced jiggling I’ve experienced in a passenger vehicle. So much so, in fact, that I reprogrammed my route to favor easy-going gravel roads and secondary highways.
The story is very different when you really do want to get to work with the truck’s heavy-duty off-road capabilities, including a lift kit so high the Bilstein shocks are visible from the side. Inside, there’s an old-fashioned mechanical transfer case on the floor (a rarity in these days of spinning knobs and AWD switches); crank it into four-wheel high and the Power Wagon will conquer the deepest of mud or snow and careen through the biggest holes you can find.
For more off-road capability, it also has an electronically disconnecting front stabilizer bar, front and rear Tru-Lok axles and the Ram Articulink suspension system. And, of course, a built-in electric Warn winch in the toothy chrome bumper, good for pulling 12,000 pounds of you (or someone else) out of the ditch.
That’s a good accessory considering the Power Wagon’s just-over-10,000-pound towing capacity and the 1,510-pound bed payload, with built-in trailer brake controls and a trailer tow monitor on the instrument panel video readout/trip computer.
Power is amply supplied by a 410-horsepower 6.4-liter V8 Hemi, rated for mid-duty (you may be frightened to see what the heavy-duty configuration looks like), with the system concluding in one of those aforementioned super-high-capacity tailpipes. It sounds awesome, of course, and that kind of pull (429 lb.-ft. of torque, too) will be especially welcome for trailering fanatics. The 13.5 mpg is another matter entirely, but part of the price of doing such oversized work.
The Power Wagon’s unmitigated brashness includes a NASCAR-styled powerdome hood with a matte-black sticker, a veritable ton of chrome and stippled running bars more suited to a fire truck than a passenger vehicle. LED lights underneath the giant side mirrors and a tricked-out box view/tail view camera system add some flashy touches; my tester’s massive box featured a sprayed-in bedliner, a rail cargo management system and, let us not forget, the RamBox storage units built into the box’s walls.
Things are also pleasantly cushy once you actually clamber aboard — that’s quite the project in a vehicle this tall — with rugged instruments and controls, and seating for six (well, maybe five and half, really, as you can flop back the center console if you opt for the bench seat, but there ain’t much foot room with those rugged cupholders and the transfer case).
This fall sees a significantly redesigned edition of the Power Wagon, with looks a little more in line with the darkened features of the Ram Rebel.
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